Departing Guard Troops Get Salvation Army Support

The group best known for bringing Christmas smiles to needy children, is delivering joy to hundreds of National Guard troops who will soon be leaving for Iraq.

The Salvation Army brought some southern hospitality to Camp Shelby.

"These soldiers are getting ready to depart. To leave their families for quite some time," said leader Chip Butler, as he spoke before a crowd of some 120 soldiers from the 155th.

Before heading overseas, the soldiers marched forward for some practical, parting gifts. The Salvation Army will pass out thousands of camouflage bags filled with personal hygiene products.

"To enable them, each soldier on their journey, to not have to worry about having to dig in their duffle. Or if they got separated from their duffle, this would come in handy for them. Just one less hassle for them," said Major Dan Heard with the Salvation Army.

Soldiers received hand shakes and well wishes from a receiving line of community leaders. "Operation Southern Hospitality" is designed to bring smiles to the troops during anxious times.

"The morale is great. These soldiers are ready to do exactly what they're trained to do. They're professionally trained soldiers. They've worked extremely hard. And they're preparing to go out and defend the gates of freedom," said Chip Butler.

The gifts represent one more show of support. It's another reminder that Mississippians appreciate the sacrifice of these National Guard troops.

"Everywhere we go. If you're just walking around in the grocery store or something, people just come up to us and say thank you and that they support us," said Susan Goff, a guard member from Canton, Mississippi.

The Salvation Army has a long history of supporting our nation's military. The support effort dates back to the War of 1812 and includes serving coffee and doughnuts to the troops near the front lines during World War Two.

Now, a new generation of warriors will have fond memories of strong support from a grateful community.

"You're leaving and going to be gone for a long time. And it's nice to know that you're not going to be forgotten. That people are thinking about you," said Goff.

Camp Shelby will host a giant send off celebration on December 22nd, shortly before the guard troops leave for Iraq.